New Guidebook Makes Sow Group Housing Easier

sowgrouphousing.jpgPork producers have a new tool to help them explore their options for sow group housing. Manitoba Pork has created a new guidebook in partnership with the University of Manitoba that clearly explains different management options to give producers the ability to choose the system that works best for them.

"Previously, there was no across-the-board resource that allowed producers to see all their options for sow group housing," says Robyn Harte, business development specialist – swine, with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD). "This new guidebook goes a long way to make the issue accessible to both producers and the general public."

As of July 1, Manitoba's new code of practice will require that new barns incorporate sow group housing. The province will transition away from keeping sows in individual stalls except during breeding, during the first trimester of pregnancy and while the sows are nursing their piglets.

Options for all management styles

"Animal husbandry systems are constantly evolving and producers are always looking to bring in new technology to better care for their animals," says Mark Fynn, animal care specialist with Manitoba Pork.

The guidebook presents different group housing pen options and includes the advantages and limitations of each. The pen layouts are based on a thorough understanding of animal behaviour and are designed to reduce aggression and fit a variety of management styles.

"Individual stalls prevented sows from bullying one another, they were very sanitary and we could control each sow's individual nutrition," says Fynn. "When you design a sow group housing pen correctly, you can keep many of those benefits while allowing the sows to move around and choose their social companions."

The guidebook, research and changes to the code of practice give producers confidence that they are making lasting changes that will be reflected industry-wide.

"Changes to barns are expensive for producers," says Harte. "The guidebook helps producers choose a sow group housing method that serves both industry and society needs. It helps producers so they can be confident about their decisions."

Made in Manitoba and easy-to-read

The research for the guidebook started at the University of Manitoba in 2011 and was partially funded by Manitoba Pork. It was compiled into a 38-page resource with funding from Growing Forward 2, a five-year, federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

"Growing Forward 2 really helped us put our sow group housing research and findings in a condensed format that is user-friendly," says Fynn.

The guidebooks were distributed at Manitoba Pork's AGM in the spring of 2014. Manitoba Pork also mailed individual copies to its producer list. So far, it has received very positive feedback.

To find a copy of the sow group housing guidebook, visit the Manitoba Pork website.

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